FIA opens doors for Michael Masi’s return to F1 despite 2021 Abu Dhabi GP controversy – Times of India

Anyone who has been watching Formula 1 since at least 2021 would starkly remember the 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, wherein seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen headed to the Yas Marina circuit with equal points, with the result of the penultimate race of the season set to decide their fates. In the end, it was Verstappen who benefitted from a pit stop under the safety car, overtaking Hamilton on the final lap for his first F1 world championship title.
At the time, Michael Masi was the Formula One race director, but was sacked from his position following an FIA investigation into his failure to correctly follow the safety car restart procedure at the 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. The investigation found that Masi circumvented the rules by allowing only the lapped cars between Hamilton (P1) and Verstappen (P2) to overtake the safety car. Masi also bypassed the standard procedure by resuming the race on the very next lap instead of completing another full lap behind the safety car once the lapped cars had repositioned themselves.

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Mohammed Ben Sulayem, who stepped up as the FIA president after the 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, has insisted that Michael Masi will be brought back if he sees fit. “I always apologise but I cannot apologise for something which was done before my time,” Ben Sulayem told The Independent. “I will do the apology but I will bring Michael Masi again. Do you think that is right? The poor guy is a person who has been attacked and abused.”
“Michael Masi went through hell. Hell! And if I see there is an opportunity that the FIA needs, and Michael Masi is the right person, I will bring him,” he added. Ben Sulayem even compared the result of the race to the 1966 FIFA World Cup final which saw England’s Geoff Hurst score a controversial goal in the first half of extra time which gave his team the lead over West Germany. As per replays, the ball did not cross the line, however, the referee did agree it was a goal to make the score 3-2. England went on to beat West Germany to take the trophy home after winning the match 4-2.
“I even had people threatening me to kill me because I had the power to change it,” he said. “But I said to them: ‘Sorry, the World Cup of 1966, England against Germany, was that correct? Did they change it? No.’ Did they give it to Germany? Nein.” It should be noted that football rules state that the ball must fully cross the line in order to be considered a goal. To avoid such situations, the video assistant referee (VAR) was officially introduced in 2018.

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